More Money For Politics, But Not For Victims?

By Pace Law | January 21, 2013

Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Albert Conforzi: In the past year, there have been several important decisions from the Ontario Court of Appeal dealing with the issue of catastrophic impairments that arise from automobile accidents.

In both the Kuszniers and Pastore decisions, the highest court in the province declined to follow the interpretations urged by insurance companies. If they had been accepted, those interpretations would have narrowed who could be considered “catastrophically impaired.” This would have significantly restricted a victim’s access to benefits.

This latest attempt by the insurance companies to limit a victim’s benefits is disturbing, but not surprising. There are a number of factors that already hinder a catastropohically impaired victim’s access to care. They include: 1) a convoluted definition system which mandates using an American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (4th edition), which is hopelessly out of date, and 2) a lack of therapies that used to be funded through OHIP, but are no longer available for car accident victims in most circumstances.

I suppose it isn’t enough that some statistics indicate that catastrophic impairment cases amount to only 1% of all accidents. No, insurers are definitely not happy that victims who are catastrophically impaired might actually get benefits. So when the courts are consistently telling them that their approach is wrong in law, there is only one thing to do – change the law to align it with their parsimonious viewpoint.

I noted with interest a recent piece from Alan Shanoff. It relates to campaign contributions made to leadership candidates in the Ontario Liberal Leadership campaign. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has taken it upon themselves to make a campaign contribution to a number of front-running candidates in the race. As Shanoff states:

It’s puzzling why every aspect of the auto insurance industry is up for review save for insurance industry practices. Perhaps the next premier of Ontario will remedy this omission. It would sure generate a lot of votes. But I wouldn’t bet on an inquiry, not with reports of $60,000 contributions by the Insurance Bureau of Canada to the leading candidates in the Ontario Liberal leadership race.

Why would an insurance lobby group want to position themselves with the leading contenders through campaign contributions? There is one answer that is obvious to me: insurers will be looking for further restrictions in the definition of catastrophic impairment in the 5-year review of the insurance regulations. This review is mandated to commence in 2013. What the courts won’t allow them to get away with through the front door, they will try to get through the back door with amendments to the regulation.

I guess the IBC is betting that some well-placed contributions at this stage will gain them access to the ears of legislators in the future. Only time will tell whether it will be money well spent. Good thing that insurers are apparently awash with profits from the last legislative amendments that came into effect in 2010 following the 2008 five-year review. They apparently have plenty of money to throw around now.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto.